Science

Robot soldiers in the army – sciences et Avenir

This article comes from the journal Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche n ° 896 of October 2021.

The story reached media coverage in March 2021. In civil war-ravaged Libya, armed autonomous drones Kargu-2, Turkish-designed quadcopters, reportedly attacked a convoy of retreating anti-government forces. It would be the first time that a robotic device has launched the attack without having received the direct order. Quoted in an expert report written for the UN Security Council, the hanging dates back to March 2020. It didn’t take more for people to talk about a “killer robot war.” However, after checking, the facts only fit in a few lines among the 556 pages of the report. And if it is indeed “lethal autonomous weapons systems […] programmed to attack targets, without the need to establish a data connection between the operator and the ammunition “, it is not really known if a shot was fired and, a fortiori, if there were casualties. The drone was effectively in” automatic self-guidance “but nothing indicates that the possible opening of the fire was in autonomous mode.

So if the announcement of the first autonomous robot attack seems premature, it reminds us that robotic armies are being formed around the world. Over the past two decades, images of US unmanned aerial drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq have become familiar. But let’s say it right away, “autonomous weapons” and “algorithmic warfare” are still fiction. This does not prevent increasingly elaborate projects from multiplying. The challenges: being more efficient in the field, processing more information and faster than a human can, helping soldiers with logistics or reconnaissance, and most of all, limiting troop exposure.

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